Monthly Archives: February 2014

4th Estate: We move from images that reported the news to the ways we report and receive the news today

This past month, we showed you how throughout history images have played a big part in reporting the news. Illustrations re-created far away newsworthy events. Photos made us witness to history as it unfolded. Social media provides us access to areas of the world that are otherwise closed off to our participation. Whether you draw it, shoot it or Instagram it, images have remained one of the most powerful ways we communicate.

Next up, we’ll take a closer look at the evolution of the 4th Estate as we explore online and social media. Today, you may get most of – if not all of your news – on your smartphone, tablet and social media resources. But just 30 years ago, all of that was new. We start this next topic by going back to the future with this 1981 news report of the brave new online world on its way.

Do you prefer traditional or new media sources to get your news?

The Collaborative Services Team


The 4th Estate: Does Social Media Help or Hurt the Search for Suspects

Today, we look at how images shared on social media can be used to solve or even potentially interfere with criminal investigations. Almost a year ago on April 15, 2013 one of our nation’s most prestigious sporting events – The Boston Maraton – was devastated by an act of terror.

That afternoon two pressure cooker bombs exploded 13 seconds and 210 yards apart near the finish line. The explosions killed three people and injured an estimated 264. With 26,839 runners and thousands of spectators along the route, authorities had to work fast. While the nation mourned, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Boston Police Department scoured surveillance footage and photos taken from spectators’ smartphones from the scene. On April 18th, the FBI released photos of “Suspect 1” and “Suspect 2” to the public asking for their help in identifying the two.

The public went to work. Cyber detectives emerged on social media sites such as Reddit posting information and sharing photos in what became a race to beat the FBI to discover the identities and locations of the suspects. Within 24 hours, Suspect 1, now known as Tamerlan Tsarnaev was dead after a shoot out with police and Suspect 2, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was in custody. Social media was also used by authorities and elected officials to inform the public of the younger Tsarnaev’s capture with the Boston Police Department and Mayor Tom Menino among those who tweeted the news.

Despite the swift end to the chaos in the greater Boston area, another type of chaos had unfolded online. The wrong names and pictures of people who resembled the suspects went viral, causing people to be misidentified. Social media users were also blamed for interfering in the investigation when people listening to police scanners during the ongoing investigation would share on the web what they were hearing.

Today, life in the greater Boston area is returning to normal and this Marathon Monday Boston will run again.

Below are surveillance footage and other  images shared on social media from the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

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Credit: Reuters

Surveillance footage of the Tsarnaev brothers at the Boston Marathon.



More surveillance footage of the Tsarnaev brothers at the Boston Marathon.



Surveillance footage of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev three days after the attack.

Credit: Boston Police Department

Credit: Boston Police Department

A tweet from the Boston Police Department announcing Dzhokhar Tsarnaey’s capture.

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Do you think using social media to identify suspects can help or hurt criminal investigations?

The Collaborative Services Team


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The 4th Estate: The social media in social movements

Tweets, posts and shares are powerful ways to communicate. Last year we referenced this power during our series on social media. Today, we look at how social media is playing a part in telling one of the most important stories in recent years – the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring began in December 2010 and sparked a wave of protests across the Middle East. Photos and videos of violence, human rights abuses and political corruption shared via Facebook and Twitter were used to coordinate and publicize mass protests, draw world wide attention and create political pressure. As of the end of last year, leaders were ousted in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and twice in Egypt. Uprisings continue in Bahrain, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Sudan as well as a war in Syria.

Facebook was one of the first places where the Syrian opposition organized and shared information. In a country that has banned international and independent journalists and uses citizen-spies to report public discussion and revolutionary acts, social media sites like Facebook had been the primary means of communication for opposition groups. However, Facebook has decided to shut down many of the protestors’ sites due to their content. Facebook uses community standards and content rules to monitor and prevent cyber bullying and hate speech, but the social network has had a tough time figuring out where to draw the line when it comes to possible human rights abuses being shared on their site. Those against this type of censorship argue that while the content may be difficult to view, so are the scenes unfolding in Syria, and that these scenes may be exactly what the world needs to see. Others say that it may be time for Facebook to create a type of rating system for their censorship in order to determine whether a post is historically significant. One major issue  is that when Facebook deletes a page it is erasing history and potential evidence that could be used against the violators if they ever go to trial.

Below are some newsworthy images of the Arab Spring about the power of social media in telling the story.

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A protestor holds a sign acknowledging Facebook’s role in the Arab Spring.

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

Anti-government protestors in Egypt take photos with their smartphones at a demonstration in Cairo.


Credit: The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page.

Credit: The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page.

An image of a protestor in Syria shared on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page.

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Do you agree that a rating system should be created for the level of censorship social media sites use to monitor content?

The Collaborative Services Team


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The 4th Estate: The “Miracle on the Hudson” brought to you by Twitter

Today, we take a look back at one of the the first major news events broken in the “twittersphere” – the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in Manhattan, New York which earned it the name “Miracle on the Hudson.” Bystanders tweeting their observations of the landing broke the news 15 minutes before the mainstream media.

On January 15, 2009 the Airbus 320 departed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. Shortly after its departure, it struck a flock of Canadian Geese causing its engines to fail and the plane to lose power. The plane’s pilot  Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was recorded reviewing the options for an emergency landing with air traffic controllers, but soon informed them that he would not be able to land at any nearby airports. Sullenberger’s last words to air traffic controllers were “We’re going to be in the Hudson.” Three minutes after losing power the plane touched down safely in the river. Sullenberger was praised for remaining calm throughout the emergency landing and for ushering all 150 passengers and five crew members to safety.

This feat was not only newsworthy because of its landing, it quickly became an example of  the power of new media over old media. FlightStats, a global flight tracking website showed the US Airways Flight 1549 as arriving 26 minutes late but still en route to Charlotte. At the same time New Yorkers with smartphones and Twitter accounts captured the dramatic landing as it was unfolding.

Below are the photos and tweets that reported this piece of breaking news.

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Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 9.48.08 AM

The first recorded tweet of the incident from Jim Hanrahan four minutes after the plane went down.

Credit: Trela Media/Associated Press

Credit: Trela Media/Associated Press

US Airways Flight 1549 is seen descending shortly after its take off from LaGuardia Airport.


Credit: Janis Krums

This photo, taken by Janis Krums on his iPhone and shared on Twitter, is one of the first recorded images of the evacuation. Krums was on a New York commuter ferry that was diverted to pick up the stranded airline passengers. His image was eventually shared on so many blogs and news outlets that it caused the TwitPic service Krums used to become temporarily unavailable for most of the rest of the day.

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Social media’s ability to share information instantly broke the news about the “Miracle on the Hudson” as it was happening. What other newsworthy events have you seen announced first on social media?

The Collaborative Services Team

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The 4th Estate: Instagram photos from the Hermit Kingdom

This week we conclude our month long exploration of newsworthy images by taking a look at the people and the photos that report the news via social media. Each day, we will bring you photos and their stories that were shared on social media to inform the world.

Today, we feature David Guttenfelder, a photojournalist using the power of social media to provide the world with access to the culturally isolated country of North Korea. Guttenfelder is the Chief Photographer for the Associated Press for Asia. He is also one of the only foreign photographers allowed to work in North Korea, also known as the Hermit Kingdom for its government’s reluctance to engage in the global community. Guttenfelder has coupled his unprecedented access with social media sites like Instragram to share photos taken during his 25 trips there. Guttenfelder is accompanied by a government liaison wherever he goes which has caused him to change his approach and strategy to photography and not worry about taking the perfect shot. Instead, Guttenfelder sees his photos as puzzle pieces that when added together provide an interesting look at daily life in North Korea.

Guttenfelder was named TIME magazine’s Instagram Photographer of the Year in 2013 and has won seven World Press Photo awards throughout his career.

Below are some of Guttenfelder’s Instagram photos from North Korea.

A passing bus and sign in Pyongyang, North Kora. Credit: David Guttenfelder via Instagram

Credit: David Guttenfelder via Instagram

A passing bus and sign in Pyongyang, North Korea.

A pre-school playground set, shaped like the North Korean Unha space rocket near the city of Pyongyang. (Credit: David Guttenfelder via Instagram)

Credit: David Guttenfelder via Instagram

A pre-school playground set, shaped like the North Korean Unha space rocket near the city of Pyongyang.

Commuters in Pyongyang gather around a hanging newspaper to learn the fate of Jang Song Thaek who was executed for being a counter-revolutionary traitor. Jang Song Thaek was married to the aunt of North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un. (Credit: David Guttenfelder via Instagram)

(Credit: David Guttenfelder via Instagram)

Commuters in Pyongyang gather around a hanging newspaper to learn the fate of Jang Song Thaek who was executed for being a counter-revolutionary traitor. Jang Song Thaek was married to the aunt of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

A display at the "Kimjongilia" and "Kimilsungia" flower exhibition in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Credit David Guttenfelder via Instagram)

Credit David Guttenfelder via Instagram

A display at the “Kimjongilia” and “Kimilsungia” flower exhibition in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Weapons are painted on the walls of a recently built pediatric hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Credit: David Guttenfelder via Instagram)

Credit: David Guttenfelder via Instagram

Weapons and military vehicles are painted on the walls of a recently built pediatric hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea.

To see more photos from North Korea and the more than 75 countries Guttenfelder has photographed follow him on Instagram @dguttenfelder.

The Collaborative Services Team

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4th Estate: Iconic photographs and the news they reported

Photos not only report the news, they make you a witness to it. Through photos you see war in far away places, the consequences of corruption and sincere moments when no one is thought to be looking. Photos provide a realism to what history looks like while it unfolds.

Just like a picture, a photo is worth a thousand words. This month, we are exploring that saying as it relates to the 4th Estate, a crucial way we stay informed to participate in our communities. This week, we are sharing photos that did the reporting. Famed photographer Ansel Adams once said “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

The newsworthy photos we have selected below take us around the world and even to the Moon. We hope you enjoy.

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WTC Flag Raise


Featured above is a side-by-side comparison of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima (left) by Joe Rosenthal and Raising the Flag at Ground Zero (right) by Thomas E. Franklin for The Record in Bergen County, New Jersey. While these photos were taken 56 years apart, their striking similarities capture the spirit of American heroism in the face of war and impending war. It may surprise you to know that both photos were taken almost unintentionally; their photographers had no idea they had captured something extraordinary with their lens. Rosenthal was setting up for a different shot when he caught the five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American flag. Amazingly, he snapped the photo without looking through the viewfinder. The photo would go on to be the only photo to win a Pulitzer Prize in the same year it was published. The three fire fighters hoisting the American Flag at Ground Zero did not know they were being photographed and never intended to draw attention to their act of patriotism. “From the moment the picture was published, it has lived a life of its own,” said Franklin. Today the photo is one of the most iconic images at ground zero from the 9/11 attacks.



The photo above provides a rare look at life in a Nazi concentration camp. Singer, songwriter and performer, Aleksander Kulisiewicz is shown here performing during his five year imprisonment at Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. Kulisiewicz had been imprisoned for anti-fascist writings published in a student newspaper and weekly in his native Poland. Imprisonment did not surpress Kulisiewicz’s talents and he became known as a “camp troubadour.” He was responsible for the creating and preserving the largest collection in existence of music composed in Nazi concentration camps. He composed 54 songs during his time at Sachsenhausen. His performances at secret gatherings helped provide hope and raise morale  among the inmates. Kulisewics was liberated in May 1945 and went on to be a correspondent for a Warsaw newspaper, compile literature related to artistic expression in concentration camps and remain an anti-fascist activist until his death in 1982.

Credit: Global News via Getty Images

Credit: Global News via Getty Images

Right now, you may be watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The Olympics showcase the world’s best athletes and have also been a platform to bring international attention to injustices. During the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, three athletes brought that attention to injustices in the USA. Shown in the photo above are Tommie Smith (center) who won the gold medal in the 200 meter race and John Carlos who won the bronze of the United States track team and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman (left) during the medal ceremony. As The Star Spangled Banner played Smith and Carlos raised their fists covered in black gloves as a gesture to bring attention to racial inequality in their home county. The moment was captured by LIFE magazine photographer John Dominis. The raised fist was widely seen as “Black Power” salute. Jones later stated in his autobiography that the gesture was meant as a “human rights salute.” The American athletes also received their medals shoeless, only wearing black socks to represent African American poverty.

Norman joined Smith and Carlos in wearing badges for the Olympic Project for Human Rights as a symbol of solidarity with the American medalists and their cause. The Olympic Project for Human Rights protested racial segregation in the United States and other countries such as South Africa and in sports. The gesture caused widespread outrage in the United States and led to Smith and Carlos being expelled from the Olympic games.

In 2006 nearly 40 years later, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at Norman’s funeral.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

The image above is moment in history that is truly out of this world. On July 20, 1969 the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin were the first humans to set foot on the Moon’s surface. These historic steps set the United States ahead of  Russia in the space race and answered President Kennedy’s 1961 call to land someone on the moon and have them return home safely before the end of the decade. Back on Earth, more than a half a billion people witnessed history in the making on their televisions. The achievement united Americans at the end of the turbulent 1960s. During their 21 hours and 36 minutes on the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin were tasked with setting up science experiments and collecting samples. They returned to Earth as heroes and brought back 46 pounds of moon rock for NASA to study. Since Apollo 11’s historic journey, a total of 12 people have landed on the moon, all Americans.

The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim’s cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division.
(Credit: via AP photographer Nick Ut)

The image above captures the chaos and horror of the Vietnam War and an instance when the photographer stepped out from behind the lens to help. On June 8, 1972 South Vietnamese planes bombed the village of Trang Bang with napalm after they mistook a group of civilians for soldiers. Associated Press photographer Nick Ut captured children running from the bombed village, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc who was left naked after her clothes burned off from the bombing, and members of her family. Ut and other journalists ran to help the civilians and saved Phuc’s life. The photo and Ut won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for Spot News Photography. More than 40 years later Ut and Phuc still remain in contact with each other.

Credit: Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated

Credit: Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated

Shown above is Brandi Chastain, a member of the United States women’s national soccer team, after scoring the winning goal in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The celebratory moment came after Chastain made the fifth kick in the penalty shoot out to give the United States the win over China. The photo made the cover of Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and Time magazines. Today the photo is considered one of the most famous images of a woman celebrating an athletic achievement and embodies female strength and determination.  Chastain recalled the incident as “Momentary insanity, nothing more, nothing less. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I thought, ‘This is the greatest moment of my life on the soccer field.”


Credit: Annie Griffiths for Ripple Effect (

A photo can be the drop that causes the ripple that leads to a tidal wave of change. Photographer Annie Griffiths is the founder and Executive Director for Ripple Effects Images, a non-profit that is dedicated to documenting the plight of impoverished women and girls as they deal with the effects of climate change. Ripple Effects’ team of journalists works with scientists and non-governmental organizations to identify needs and the innovative programs that are helping to empower these women and girls. The journalists’ photographs, videos and stories are donated to the Ripple Effect Images Archive which is made available at no cost to partner aid organizations and policy makers. The photo above shows young women salt workers in India who must work in extreme heat to earn a living to bring out the point that people in developing countries will be especially impacted by more severe climate conditions.

Prior to starting Ripple Effects Images, Griffiths was known as one of the first female photographers for National Geographic magazine where she photographed in more than 150 countries.

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Stay with us as we explore how images are part of how we receive the news and participate in decisions. Next, we will focus on new technology and social media applications that allow us to create and share newsworthy photos and videos. In the meantime, please share with us your favorite newsworthy and memorable photos and use your own words to tell us why they had an affect on you.

The Collaborative Services Team

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4th Estate: Reporting the news with pictures

A free and independent press is crucial to a functioning democracy. So crucial, it is known as the 4th estate – the 4th branch of government – to give an all-important check to balance the three branches – executive, legislative and judicial – that are defined in our constitution. This month we start a series on the impact of visual communications in how people participate in important decisions, starting with its use in reporting the news.

Before cameras and smart phones, there were illustrations to help readers understand their world and their choices. And, even when the camera and modern devices came along, illustrations  remained a powerful way of getting a point across. This week, we share some of our favorite illustrations that reported not just the facts, but also the momentum, the change, and the feeling of  the day especially when words simply wouldn’t do.

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Known as the first political cartoon to be published in the United States, “Join, or Die” (shown above) created by Benjamin Franklin was originally published in his Pennsylvania GazetteThe cartoon was paired with an editorial by Franklin stressing the importance of colonial unity. Later it became a symbol of colonial freedom during the American Revolutionary War and has since become a longstanding symbol of strength through unity.

Credit: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper,1863

Credit: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper,1863

Brutal hand-to-hand combat  between the Union Cavalry, commanded by General William Averill and J.E.B. Stuart’s Rebel Troop, at Kelley’s Ford  on the Rappahannock River in Culpeper County Virginia on March 17, 1863 is depicted in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Later known as Leslie’s Weekly, the publication was an illustrated and literary news magazine that ran from 1852 to 1922. Illustrated newspapers like Leslie’s and Harpers Weekly were often one of the only resources people had to get news about the war and loved ones fighting far away in it.

Norman Rockwell's "Rosie the Riveter" for Post Magazine (left) beside J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!" poster (right) commissioned by Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee. Credit:


Norman Rockwell’sRosie the Riveter” for The Saturday Evening Post  (left) beside J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” poster (right) commissioned by Westinghouse Electric Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee. Rosie the Riveter symbolized a dramatic shift in America necessitated by World War II. American women took on the jobs at factories, munitions plants, and shipyards while the men who typically occupied these jobs were away fighting in the war. Rosie the Riveter withstood World War II and the test of time; she lives on today as an iconic symbol of the feminist movement.


Credit: Condé Nast

The New Yorker, a weekly magazine that spans the gamut between fiction, current events, and politics, has filled their publication with political cartoons and iconic covers since its inception in 1925. The harrowing collaboration shown above by cartoonist and editor Art Spiegelman and his wife, New Yorker Art Director, Francoise Mouly  was featured on the September 24, 2011 cover of The New Yorker just two weeks after the attacks. According to Mouly she and  Spiegelman felt that even images were powerless in the aftermath of the attack. The only appropriate cover to post was no cover at all. Spiegleman later suggested adding the silhouettes of the twin towers and the cover now known as “Black on Black” was created.


Credit: Condé Nast

The New Yorker visited the twin towers three years after the attack on the World Trade Center in illustrator and animator Istvan Banyai’s “Déjà Vu” cover. The silhouettes of the towers symbolize the ever present memory of the attacks in the lives of New Yorkers.

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We encourage you to share your favorite newsworthy illustrations with us. Is there a particular symbol, advertisement or magazine cover that commemorates a special moment in time for you?

Next week, we’ll feature photographs that helped deliver the news of the day.

The Collaborative Services Blog Team

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Seeing is Believing: The future of communications

Members of the National Security Council react to an update they received about the mission against Osama Bin Ladin  on May 1, 2011. (Credit: HANDOUT / Reuters)

Members of the National Security Council react to an update they received about the mission against Osama Bin Ladin on May 1, 2011.
(Credit: HANDOUT / Reuters)

Today you can take a trip to the other side of the world or even outer space by clicking a button. You can catch a glimpse of our nation’s leaders gathered in a closed door meeting to watch a top secret operation unfold, or view snap shots of countries shrouded in secrecy like North Korea all on your smart phone.

News is becoming more and more visual. Seeing has always been believing and now we can see places, breaking news and moments from history in a matter of seconds thanks to ever-improving technology and the internet.

While we love words sometimes an image really is worth a thousand of  them. It’s no wonder Facebook didn’t bat an eye at spending $1 billion to acquire Instagram. This first of its kind purchase for Facebook was done mainly to allow the social network to produce the best photo sharing experience possible. Photos on Facebook generate 53 percent more “likes” then other posts.

A scene from Coca-Cola's 2014 Super Bowl commerical. (Credit:

A scene from Coca-Cola’s 2014 Super Bowl commerical.

The more we see and the more we share comes with its fair share of controversy. A recent example of this is the commercial Coca-Cola debuted during this year’s Super Bowl. The minute long #AmericaisBeautiful commercial featured a diverse array of Americans doing every day activities with Coca-Cola products subtly placed throughout. The only words used in the commercial were the lyrics to the classic, patriotic song “America the Beautiful.” It was sung by young women in eight different languages. These few words paired with a variety of scenes of Americans from different backgrounds, cultures,  races, religions and sexual orientations produced powerful reactions from viewers. While it may have caused some to shed a tear and run out to stock up on more Coke, it sparked outrage across the internet from English-only proponents calling on people to boycott the company. Sure the controversy was mainly aimed at “America the Beautiful” being sung in languages other than English, but we can’t help but wonder if  the reactions and controversy would remain if the song was taken away? After all, the images used reinforced the message and the put a face to Americans who are multilingual or non-native English speakers.

The young girl pulling petals off a flower depicted in Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 "Peace Little Girl (Daisy)" Presidential Campaign ad. (Credit: NBC Universal)

The young girl pulling petals off a flower depicted in Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 “Peace Little Girl (Daisy)” Presidential campaign ad.
(Credit: NBC Universal)

While not everyone may like what they see, there is no doubt that images are powerful. Images have helped topple regimes and sway elections. An example of this power is the ad Lyndon B. Johnson used in his 1964 Presidential campaign against Barry Goldwater. The ad known as “Peace Little Girl (Daisy)” features a young girl counting the petals she picks off a flower. The counting is then taken over by a ominous voice signaling the detonation of a nuclear bomb followed by the image of a mushroom cloud. While this campaign commercial ran only once as paid advertisement it was successful in painting Goldwater as warmonger eager to use nuclear force to win the Vietnam War and helped secure the election for Johnson.

Over the next couple of months we will explore how the 4th Estate is becoming more visual. This month we plan to share some of our favorite iconic and even infamous images from history. From sketches and illustrations used before photographs to the pictures that made us stop and think to the social media applications that allow us to participate and share our own images. Next month we’ll deepen this exploration and feature online publications and social media applications that are using images to report the news. We invite you to share your favorite images with us and the stories, feelings and words that you associate with them.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services

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Moving from the ways we participate to the new ways we communicate

Credit: Fresno Council of Governments

Credit: Fresno Council of Governments

What has public participation accomplished in your community? Last month we featured public participation successes in communities from West Hollywood to Saskatewan, Canada. These projects and approaches included small but influential efforts like creating a comfortable environment at public workshops or making participation easy by placing pop-up workshops or sounding boards in areas people frequent. These practices are improving how we interact with local planning agencies, governments and each other. It’s no wonder two of the projects we featured are International Association of Public Participation award winners.

We saw innovation from the City of West Hollywood Social Services Division and the ourWascana Visioning Project. We saw a step in the right direction for voting in Oregon with Healthy Democracy Oregon’s Citizens’ Initiative Review. And with the World Café we saw an approach that has been welcomed on a global scale.

As a public outreach and communications firm we always welcome new advances in the practice of public participation. New technology and social media are making participating even easier, but these tools don’t reach everyone. The digital divide still exists, making traditional public participation just as important to reaching consensus. It was great to see both new and traditional mediums for public participation used with the projects and initiatives we featured. The more opportunities people have to participate, the more representative the input received will be. Effective public participation results in better decisions. Better decisions result in better communities.

Credit: Eric S. Townsend Marketing

Credit: Eric S. Townsend Marketing

We want to thank last month’s interviewees for taking the time to participate in our blog series and for the work they do to advance successful public participation.

First Lady Michelle Obama shared her meeting with local artists on Goree Island  in Senegal on her Instagram. (Credit: Michelle Obama's Instagram Account )

First Lady Michelle Obama shared her meeting with local artists on Goree Island in Senegal on her Instagram.
(Credit: Michelle Obama’s Instagram Account )

This month we are shifting our focus from how we participate in our worlds to how we see our worlds. Everyday, the world is becoming more visual. Images – whether information graphics, environmental signage, branded environments – are doing the talking. True, a picture has always been worth a thousand words, but today there are so many more pictures doing the talking.

Social media applications like Instagram invite us to experience intimate moments with our favorite celebrities, athletes, politicians and heroes.  Vine challenges us to tell a story in six seconds or less. Applications like these are inspiring creativity in their users.

Images have been used to bring stories to life even before the first photograph was taken in 1827. Photojournalists use  their craft to capture raw human emotion, breaking news and some of the most significant moments in history. Social media makes it easier for the average person to participate in this practice. This month we will explore the past with some of the images that influenced us and stayed with us over the years. We will explore the future with the images and technology making it possible to see the world in the palm of your hand.

We hope you will stay with us and share some of your favorite iconic images and the stories behind them. We want to know which images made an impact on your life and we want to know how you use images to communicate today.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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For the People by the People: Oregon’s Citizens’ Initiative Review

Elections bring a slew of information for and against different initiatives. But how much of what you read, see and hear can be trusted? After all, who is paying for the ballot measures you are voting on? Campaign ads can often cause negative reactions from viewers. They are an expensive way to get you to change the channel. The lack of quality coupled with biased information can be frustrating at minimum and misinform you at worse.

Credit: CNN

Credit: CNN

In 2011, recognizing the lack of available quality information, the State of Oregon took a new step forward by including public participation in reviewing citizen initiatives. The non-partisan and non-profit organization Healthy Democracy Oregon came up with a plan to get its state’s citizens more involved in their voting process and provide them with a stronger voice in how their state is run.

The review is the Citizens’ Initiative Review and it provides Oregonians with an unbiased review of ballot measures done by citizens just like you. Groups of 24 randomly selected, demographically representative citizens are selected to be part of a panel for each initiative. Their job is to provide an objective review of the upcoming citizens initiatives and write a statement highlighting their most important findings. The statements are then included in the voter’s pamphlets for citizens to consider when casting their ballot.

hd-logo-03This use of a citizen review is no new idea, but its use with ballot measures is. Cities have used various forms of citizen advisory committees on projects for years. So why not take a page from this book and apply it to the ballot initiative system? After all who better to review and comment on citizens initiatives than the citizens themselves.

 This week as we continue our month-long look at public participation successes, we hear from we hear from Tyrone Reitman, co-founder of Healthy Democracy Oregon. He shares with us the challenges Healthy Democracy Oregon faced when creating the Citizens’ Initiative Review, who’s on the Citizens’ Initiative Review panels and how they are selected, and how this model can improve voting in other states. We welcome his insights.

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What inspired the Citizens’ Initiative Review to be established?
Oregon pioneered the ballot initiative system in 1902 to give citizens a stronger voice in their government by bypassing the legislature to create laws directly at the ballot box. After 112 years, the system is going strong but showing some signs of strain. The number of measures on ballots has increased, and so has the amount of money campaigns spend working for and against them. Ballot measure campaigns spent close to a billion dollars in 2012, as voters decided 188 questions on 39 statewide ballots (when local measures are added, the count rises above 5,000). And while legislators have access to public hearings about bills they consider, the initiative process often asks citizens to make even more impactful decisions (for instance, constitutional amendments) with little information other than what campaigns provide.

So while polls show that voters like the initiative system, they’re frustrated by a lack of quality information about measures. A supermajority of voters in several states report casting ballots on measures with which they are unfamiliar, and three in four voters say they often find the measures too complicated and confusing to understand.


Oregon’s mail in ballot

As a co-founder of Healthy Democracy, you saw the Citizens Initiative Review come to fruition over the course of five years. What challenges did you face along the way?
A key challenge was to build a trustworthy process that all sides recognize as being fair and free from bias. We talked to legislators on both sides of the aisle to gain their support for this first-in-the-nation program and trained our moderators to put citizen panelists in charge of directing the reviews. We hold a very open process and panelists anonymously report their satisfaction and any perceived bias to researchers each day. Not every campaign has chosen to participate, but we’ve developed a way to bring in other advocates and ensure a fair process whether or not they participate.

How did the process get designed?
As John Gastil, Head of the Communication Arts & Sciences department at Penn State says, “The idea behind the Citizens’ Initiative Review is simple. When we give citizens a chance to deliberate and inform one another, they usually yield well-reasoned and compassionate judgments.” We started with the jury process, which has been used for centuries to bring citizens together to answer factual questions in the legal system. Ned Crosby, founder of the Jefferson Center, developed a model to use citizens’ juries to address questions of policy and governance, and has spent multiple decades refining the process. We were fortunate to have him and talented facilitators as early collaborators to help design the process.

To what extent do you think the Citizens’ Initiative Review impacts Oregon voters’ decision-making process?
We are fortunate that an independent academic research team has studied our results over the past two cycles. In 2012, for the first time, the research team found that over half of Oregon voters were aware of and used the CIR when voting, and two-thirds of them reported that it helped them make voting decisions.

CIR-infographic-largeThe Citizens’ Initiative Review is a randomly selected, demographically balanced panel. How are people selected?
Initial invitations are mailed to 10,000 Oregonians selected at random from the list of registered voters, and those who agree participate are placed in a pool. For each review, 24 panelists are selected to match the demographics of Oregon’s population with regard to party affiliation, voting frequency, age, gender, ethnicity, educational attainment, and geographic location. At the end of the day our goal is to bring together a good faith reflection of the state’s voting population to deliberate, and we’ve had no trouble finding voters to do so.

How many people ultimately serve on the panel? How long do they serve?
24 panelists serve on each review, which lasts five days.

Does the panel select a chair? Is it facilitated in any way by a moderator?
The panelists meet for five days to review a ballot measure (they are compensated for their time and travel expenses). Trained moderators guide the panelists through the process of gathering initial information about the measure, selecting neutral policy experts to interview, and questioning advocates for and against the measure. The panelists deliberate and have the opportunity to ask further questions. As Maggie Koerth-Baker writes in the New York Times Magazine, “The panelists know they’re expected to base their opinions on hard evidence, and this expectation becomes part of their temporary identity. Under those conditions…facts suddenly matter.”

To conclude the Review, panelists draft a Citizens’ Statement that summarizes the most important aspects as well as how many panelists support and oppose the measure. What kind of feedback has this received from Oregon’s voters? What benefits do they express this process has for them?
An independent research team funded by the National Science Foundation and Kettering Foundation studied the reviews in 2010 and 2012 and found that in 2012, over half of voters read a CIR statement, and two-thirds found it useful when casting their ballots. In the end, voters agreed with both 2012 panels’ assessments. Media have praised the CIR for offering “the most objective analyses of the issues we’ll be voting on” (La Grande Observer). Elected leaders from both parties compliment the process for offering voters a chance to provide quality information to their fellow citizens.Measure-82-2

Prior to the 2012 election what outreach efforts and tactics were used to generate interest and familiarity with the Review?
Oregon is a vote by mail state, and our voters’ pamphlet is widely read (over 80% of voters spend more than a half hour reading it). Since the CIR is a state program, the results are put in the Voters’ Guide, which is where most voters encounter it. We also work with media (newspapers, television, and radio) to spread the results of the reviews.

How do you plan to further let voters know about this process and its analysis?
This year we’ll be enhancing our social media work to increase our reach with younger voters who are less likely to rely on the Voters’ Guide.

coverWe learned that your project is the first formalized voter deliberation resource of its kind. In what other ways, if any, would you like to see Oregon’s initiative process change?
There’s a lot of frustration with the initiative process from groups on both sides of the aisle, but polls show that two-thirds of voters support the initiative system the way it is. Right now we’re focused on the CIR, and more generally, we believe that the best way to help the initiative system achieve its initial purpose of giving the people a stronger voice in their democracy is to improve voters’ access to quality, factual, unbiased information at election time.

Not all states allow citizens’ initiatives – do you see the Citizens Initiative Review as a model for other ballot measures, such as constitutional amendments?
Yes, and in fact access to quality information is especially important for constitutional amendments, which have long-lasting impacts on a state and tend to be difficult to reverse once passed. The Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission prioritizes constitutional amendments and measures with significant fiscal impacts when choosing which measures will be reviewed.

States that allow citizen's initiatives are shown in dark blue.  (Credit:

States that allow initiatives are shown in dark blue

How can our voters get involved and encourage formalized voter deliberation in their home state?
Sign up for our newsletter or join our Facebook page to stay up to date on the latest in using citizen deliberation and fact-based, quality information to improve governance in America. We’re committed to providing support to groups in other states that are ready to start a Citizens’ Initiative Review, and we’ll connect you to those exciting efforts.

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Healthy Democracy Oregon and  the Citizens’ Initiative Review is changing voting in Oregon for the better and helping set an example for other states to follow. Tell us how you would like to see voting and ballot measures improved in your state or other citizen review processes that you know of.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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